The Great Book of Amber. Chapter 3, 4
In the morning she was gone, and there was no message. Her maid served me breakfast in the kitchen and went away to do maid-things. I’d disregarded the notion of trying to pump information out of the woman, as she either wouldn’t know or wouldn’t tell me the things I wanted to know and would no doubt also report my attempt to Flora. So, since it seemed I had the nun of the house, I decided I’d return to the library and see what I could learn there. Besides, I like libraries. It makes me feel comfortable and secure to have walls of words, beautiful and wise, all around me. I always feel better when I can see that there is something to hold back the shadows.
Donner or Blitzen, or one of their relatives, appeared from somewhere and followed me up the hallway, walking stiff-legged and sniffing after my spoor. I tried to make friends with him, but it was like exchanging pleasantries with the state trooper who signaled you to pull off the road. I looked into some of the other rooms as I went along, and they were just places. innocuous-looking ones.
So I entered the library, and Africa still faced me. I closed the door behind me to keep the dogs out, and I strolled around the room. reading the titles on the shelves.
There were lots of history books. In fact, they seemed to dominate her collection. There were also many art books, of the big and expensive variety, and I leafed through a few of these. I usually do my best real thinking when I’m thinking about something else.
I wondered at the sources of Flora’s obvious wealth. If we were related, did that mean that perhaps I enjoyed somewhat of opulence, also? I thought about my economic and social status, my profession, my origins. I had the feeling that I’d never worried much about money, and that there’d always been enough or ways of getting it, to keep me satisfied. Did I own a big house like this? I couldn’t remember.
What did I do?
I sat behind her desk and examined my mind for any special caches of knowledge I might possess. It is difficult to examine yourself this way, as a stranger. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t come up with anything. What’s yours is yours and a part of you and it just seems to belong there, inside. That’s all.
A doctor? That came to mind as I was viewing some of Da Vinci’s anatomical drawings. Almost by reflex, in my mind, I had begun going through the steps of various surgical operations. I realized then that I had operated on people in the past.
But that wasn’t it. While I realized that I had a medical background, I knew that it was a part of something else. I knew, somehow, that I was not a practicing surgeon. What then? What else was involved?
Something caught my eye.
Seated there at the desk, I commanded a view of the far wall. on which, among other things, hung an antique cavalry saber, which I had overlooked the first time around the room. I rose and crossed over to it, took it down from its pegs.
In my mind, I tsked at the shape it was in. I wanted an oily rag and a whetstone, to make it the way it should he once again. I knew something about antique arms, edged weapons in particular.
The saber felt light and useful in my hand, and I felt capable with it. I struck an en garde. I parried and cut a few times. Yes. I could use the thing.
So what sort of background was that? I looked around for new memory joggers.
Nothing else occurred to me, so I replaced the blade and returned to the desk. Sitting there, I decided to go through the thing.
I started with the middle one and worked my way up the left side and down the right, drawer by drawer.
Stationery, envelopes, postage stamps, paper clips, pencil stubs, rubber bands—all the usual items.
I had pulled each drawer all the way out though, and held it in my lap as I’d inspected its contents. It wasn’t just an idea. It was part of some sort of training I’d once received, which told me I should inspect the sides and bottoms as well.